An absorbing and inspiring remembrance.

BOTH SIDES

THE CLASSROOM FROM WHERE I STAND

A high school teacher reflects on challenges she’s faced as a student and an educator in this debut memoir.

Potter’s book begins with a Kentucky high school principal putting the author and all the other teachers on buses to visit poverty-stricken sections of their district, where many of their students reside. The roads are so bumpy that one of Potter’s colleagues throws up on the bus. As they drive past run-down trailers and dilapidated shacks, an administrator tells the passengers, “Don’t forget that when you get mad about them not having a pencil.” It’s a lesson that Potter, who taught high school English for more than 17 years, learned well. In a series of essays that move forward and backward in time, the author gracefully explores the ways in which good teachers help students navigate lives full of poverty, drugs, violence, unintended pregnancy, and death. Fortunately for Potter’s students, she remembers her own struggles on their side of the desk. Her father had to quit high school to get a job, her grandfather couldn’t read, and she dealt with her own obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her writings show that she knows what it’s like to face tall odds during one’s teen years; every minor failure feels like the end of the world. Potter also effectively pays tribute to the teachers who helped her at pivotal times in her life as a student and new teacher, but the biggest tribute to their legacy is her own remarkable career. Throughout the book, she admirably relates how she’s gone the extra mile for students by giving them a pat on the back, for example, or attending a funeral. Although she honestly recognizes times when she’s come up short and shies away from trumpeting her victories, it’s hard to come away from this collection without a sense of awe for the herculean efforts of teachers like her.

An absorbing and inspiring remembrance.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-71681-845-5

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Lulu.com

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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